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Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 1998 Oct;71(7):445-52.

Metabolic interferences in subjects occupationally exposed to binary styrene-acetone mixtures.

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Institute of Occupational Health, University of Brescia, Italy.



To investigate the excretion of styrene metabolites (mandelic acid, MA, and phenylglyoxylic acid, PGA) in workers employed in plastic manufacturing to verify the possible influence of coexposure to acetone on styrene metabolism.


This study was carried out on 50 workers employed in 3 factories producing polyester buttons. The workers were divided into three groups according to three different levels of acetone exposure. The trend of excretion for metabolites was examined during and after work shifts. Styrene and acetone were monitored on Thursday during the entire work shift by passive dosimeters placed on the lapel of the workers' uniforms, desorbed by carbon disulfide, and analyzed by gas chromatography. Biological monitoring was performed by determination of the urinary metabolites of styrene in urine samples collected on Thursday at the middle and the end of the work shift. MA and PGA were determined by a high-pressure liquid chromatographic method.


The styrene concentrations ranged between 16 and 439 mg/m3, and in ten samples they exceeded the TLV-TWA (213 mg/m3). The acetone concentration ranged between 15 and 700 mg/m3 (TLV-TWA 1780 mg/m3), with the mean value being 208 mg/m3. During cleaning operations higher exposures to acetone demonstrated, with concentrations ranging between 500 and 3400 mg/m3. The amounts of MA and PGA determined at the end of workshifts did not significantly differ between the groups with different levels of acetone coexposure. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) between the groups confirmed that MA and PGA excretion did not significantly differ, although the metabolite values measured on the "morning of the day after" appeared higher in those groups with high levels of acetone exposure and were related to the average airborne concentrations of the solvent. In addition, the range and degree of correlation between styrene in air and biological levels of metabolites were modified by coexposure to acetone.


Our data demonstrate that amounts of MA and PGA did not differ in groups with different levels of acetone exposure, but when the acetone air concentration increased the degree of correlation between styrene and MA and PGA decreased. Furthermore, coexposure to acetone levels similar to those described herein may hamper the use of urinary metabolites for the assessment of exposure to styrene, especially on an individual basis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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